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SM at scout camp..😱

Our SM is taking his family on vacation this year while the troop is @ camp, it’s been a dozen years, so his wife deserves it, so I get the dubious honour of being SM for a week. I’ve been an ASM for about 9 months, am an Eagle, so I get program, but just feels like I might be herding cats…

Ideas, comments, escape routes…

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Timothy - it is by no means a dubious honor. Just think back on summer camp when you were a scout. Your role is to kick them back in the game. The best advise is to look up the 40 things you will hear a scoutmaster say at summer camp.

Found it:



I’ve been substitute SM at summer camp for two different troops. Just be yourself. Don’t try to figure out what the SM would do. Make your own decisions.

You get it. You’ll be fine.



Agree, we all have different standards one of leaders likes to see the kids look sharp every day on how they dress , me if the kids hit the shower once a day that’s more of my concern, our third likes the camp neat all the time again me I pay more attention to the dishes being washed and ready for the next meal.

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WWBPD? That’s printed on the back of one of my troops’ shirts. ask yourself the question, the answer will be obvious, and you will be fine :slight_smile:

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Have a good SPL who uses his Patrol Leaders and empower them. A youth can deal with a homesick Scout better than any adult can cause they have been there recently just like the scout.


I think there’s room for both to be involved in dealing with a homesick scout. While the scouts are closer to understanding those feelings, an adult should still observe and step in if it’s not working.


Let your camp director know that you are new to being a direct contact leader for a troop. He might assign you a more mature staff, buddy you up with an SM who has been a proven coach, or send camp commissioners your way more frequently than usual to help make sure your hammock is properly tied and regularly filled.

Regarding homesick scouts, you and your SPL can also ask the camp chaplain for a little help.


Plan on using a hammock all week:laughing:


My first advice is to ask the SM for advice. The escape route is that there will be plenty of seasoned SMs at camp and you can ask them if need be.

Outside that, it is herding cats. I ensure first year scouts find their classes the first day. Those needing additional help I ask older scouts to assist.

When your feet are tired and sore, take that as a sign and sit more. Really, camp will continue while you do so.

There is no one size fits all answer for how much involvement you should have. Good luck.

@TimothyDolan - it will all work out especially once you get the hang of taking a nap in your fold out camp chair cup of coffee in hand.

I agree with asking for help from others, but I’ll disagree with Qwazse’s comment that the OP didn’t have much direct contact. To me, the ASM has as much, if not more, direct contact with the Scouts. At least that’s how I did it. I was the guy herding the cats, printing out their camp MB schedules and making sure they had a buddy to get to their classes. That left the SM to work on the big-picture stuff, like finding potential camp projects to present to the SPL to choose from.

We’re a very small troop right now, so as the newly-minted SM, I talked to another small troop about share a site at camp, which lets us back eachother up. If that’s an option, I highly recommend it, so long as you can live with their style. We were assigned another troop last year and their SM was totally useless, to the point where it wasn’t safe (e.g. dancing in campfire, constant knife-play), along with being a terrible example for our Scouts. I ended up spending a ton of time coaching him and their SPL. I just wish I knew if any of it stuck.

That’s how the best SMs do it, but that requires a good SPL and PLs.

@StewartStryker, I wasn’t saying ASM didn’t qualify as direct contact. The time served as SM/ASM was the challenge.

I agree that most of us ASMs know the drill. We actually have the advantage of having slummed around a summer camp and watched the SM rack up foibles that will be recalled by the scouts for the rest of their lives. We’ve started our list of what not to do. So, we would never ask strangers on the internet for help. We’d call the SM that we met last summer and ask if he/she’d be there for backup this summer. We’ve already called ahead and asked the ranger if our favorite hammock trees are still standing!

But 9 months as ASM is just long enough to know which scouts might need a little help. Maybe it’s enough to be confident in your PLC. But it’s not enough to know for sure how to manage things like paperwork, advising the troop on camp-wide activities, which staff work best with your guys, and what to ask (or not ask) of your ASMs.

@Qwazse - All excellent points!

If I hadn’t been to camp with the troop before and only had 9 months as an ASM, then was going to be acting SM, I’d be nervous too!

I agree that a long talk with the SM about the logistics of camp is the best plan. Heck, I wish my SM had given me a better clue before we went to camp together for the first time! :slight_smile:

I didn’t have the brains to ask the SM for more details beforehand, so I ran around and made a mess of things, the sort of thing I’ve read Second Lieutenants in the Army do on their first tour! :wink:

Although I am Committee Chairman and not Scoutmaster, I have been “the leader” for my troop’s summer camp trips six of the past seven years.
The key thing to remember is that you aren’t alone. You have at least one other adult leader from your troop with you on the trip, and odds are that leader is not on his first rodeo. You should also ask your troop committee and the parents of the scouts on the trip for any pre-trip help you need. Key items to worry about in the last month before camp:

  • Medical forms and medications (parents)
  • Blue cards (advancement chair / SM)
  • Transportation plan (parents / committee)
  • Troop gear (committee / quartermaster)

Don’t be afraid to delegate, especially to your SPL / PLC.
Do set ground rules for what problems the scouts should bring to you first, with all others going to the youth leadership. Make sure the youth leaders know which problems they need to bring to you for a check before solving themselves.

@CraigVoss: You are able to get your scouts to shower daily? That is super impressive. My goal has been to get them to do so sometime in the 12 hours before reuniting them with parents.
I remember an early camp trip where a senior scout had this tiny bag plus a sleeping bag. I asked his mother how he packed so light. Her answer: “After a few years (of her son going to camp), I conceded even packing multiple pairs of clean underwear. He’s clean when he arrives and I insist on a clean pair coming home. In between, I’m done fighting.”

BTW: Because of work schedules, our SM hasn’t attended camp for the four years he has otherwise ably served. We are grateful to our ASMs and Committee volunteers who staff camp for our scouts.


A couple of items:

  1. Rely on your SPL - a lot
  2. Take a few demo lessons along for evenings (when things get squirrely back in the campsite) - Totin’ Chip, Firem’n Chit, Outdoor Cooking, etc. Show Scouts how to do adult stuff like light a white gas lamp, etc. Give them some skills!
  3. On homesickness, your goal is for a Scout to complete the experience. Enlist them in that as a way to “fix” homesickness: First, tell them that their feelings are real - sick to the stomach, achy, on the verge of tears, etc. Second, let them know the feelings are TEMPORARY. They will go away with time. Third, tell them that there are three things they need to focus on to help themselves get through the temporary feelings of discomfort - Don’t be alone (be with others), Don’t “do nothing” (keep busy), Don’t think about it, especially not how long it feels until the final day. If the Scout can’t get through the week, they should focus on getting through the next day. If they can’t do that, they should focus on the getting through the next hour…minute, etc. Once a Scout has agreed to these three things, tell them if they can get through the next day, you will “talk again”. NEVER promise that they can go home as a reward for getting past homesickness. And…avoid parental contact at all costs. That can be the complete undoing of all of your hard work to keep the Scout at camp. Better: make deals about things like sitting together at a meal, or getting the first s’more at the campfire, etc. Also, enlist other Scouts to help keep an eye on the homesick camper and to keep them engaged and active if they notice they are feeling badly or holding back from the group. There’s nothing like an arm across the shoulders from a friend when you’re feeling low. Good luck this summer!
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Don’t worry too much. Have fun. I have been A leader at several summer camp experiences (not THE leader). Here are my suggestions

  1. Pull up the leader guide for your camp. Talk to the SPL about what free time activities the troop wants to participate in. Print a copy of the weekly schedule. Print a copy of where each scout should be during the day. Print a copy of the map. Print anything else the leader guide says to hand in (roster, etc). Bring a copy of proof of payment. DO not rely on having cell or WiFi access. Many camps have spotty or nonexistent service.
  2. Talk to the SM. Get an idea of the scouts strengths and weaknesses, which ones will get on each other’s nerves, etc. Ask him specifically what he controls. Then talk to the other leader that went last year and ask the same questions.
  3. After looking at points 1 and 2, determine how you want to proceed. If you are not great at paperwork, ask another leader or parent to take charge of medical forms, etc for you.
  4. Make sure each scout AND adult has handed in a copy of the medical forms for you to hold and also has a copy in thier day pack. Verify parent and doctor signatures are in thed correct spots. DO THIS BEFORE YOU LEAVE! Your copy is the backup in case a scout manages to lose thier form on the way there.
  5. If scouts are swim testing when you arrive, make sure scouts have thier swim gear in a daypack. It makes changing quicker if no one us trying to dig through a footlocker.
  6. scouts that have not attended summer camp with your troop are the wildcards. Talk to the parent to get an idea of the scouts mindset. Nervous or excited? Has the scout ever camped away from mom and dad before (in a tent not in a cabin or a dorm)? Things you should watch for that generally mean impending meltdown.
  7. Have a plan for which adult will attend the first year program if you have scouts that will be attending. Most came strongly encourage one leader from each troop. Try to split up the time between your leaders if possible.
  8. Have FUN! if the camp allows, shoot archery, swim, get out on the lake. Take cards and play with the other leaders. Bring a great book. Make an effort to have a positive attitude even if it rains, or the food is aweful or the mosquitoes think you are dinner. Your attitude and mindset will set the climate at your campsite.

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